It’s Yeezy season, everybody. This week, Kanye West made a surprise (isn’t everything he does a “surprise” these days?) appearance at the iHeartRadio Media Summit in Burbank, California. He didn’t crash the stage or anything; his appearance was announced, and planned in secret. Which is probably why he gave a fairly tame speech about innovation that concluded with his playing a Rihanna-featuring track from his as-of-yet-untitled seventh album. And then he walked off the stage to a sanding ovation.
Needless to say, people are excited about Kanye’s album. Six months ago, Flavorwire wrote about his current trilogy of Heaven/Earth/Hell albums. It seems that the release of Kanye’s album is imminent, but since that piece has run, there has been shockingly little in the way of new, concrete revelations as far as the album is concerned. Here’s what we know.
Kanye is playing the album for everybody. Whether Kanye is looking for opinions or just eager to share his new high art, the guy has been playing his new stuff for as many people as possible. Seth Rogen reportedly heard it in a limo one night, with West rapping live over finished beats. This was after West played it in a nightclub for 20 lucky people, three times in a row, though that story is kind of unbelievable given the fact that no recordings have surfaced online. There’s even a chance he stopped in to Def Jam to play his album there. Then there’s the incident at iHeartRadio. He’s probably also played it for his doormen, limo drivers, barber, and masseuse. Maybe Kanye isn’t ever actually going to release this album, and will instead just travel around the world playing it for people?
Nobody agrees on the general vibe of the album. Few people have spoken out about the sound of the album, collaborators or otherwise, but they all seem to give pretty vague, if not conflicting, opinions on how the thing will sound. Evian Christ told Self-Titled that Kanye wanted something that sounds “a bit like Otis Redding, a bit like Mobb Deep.”
This seems to go hand-in-hand with statements from Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music collaborator Malik Yusef, who told Rolling Stone that the album sounds like a “pair of Timberlands.” He went on: “This album is different. It’s like a pair of Timberlands; like how Timberlands are not quite leather and not quite suede. It’s not the smooth, slick Chicago music sound we have right now and it’s not the ruggedness of just ‘hip-hop hip-hop hip-hop.'”
However, this doesn’t really jive with what tweets from that nightclub listening party indicated, saying that the album carries on with Yeezus‘ grimy, “hellish” sound.
Meanwhile, Kanye (totally aptly) compared himself to Bruce Springsteen, saying that if Yeezus was his Nebraska, then this next one will be his Born in the USA. Who knows what that means, though. Maybe just more of the “Bound 2“ aesthetic? Or maybe a more singer-songwriter-y vibe, given that…
Paul McCartney may be prominently featured. “Only One” was released on New Year’s Day, and it’s the only real piece of the album we’ve heard. Along with the release of the track — which is pretty beautiful, and is said to be devoted to Kanye’s daughter — West revealed that McCartney collaborated on a bunch of tracks. Whether this means the Beatle played some synths, wrote, or sang on the tracks, who knows. But, hopefully his collaborations aren’t cut, seeing as the entire industry is potentially going to be featured on the album.
So many people have apparently worked on this album. News of potential collaborators on this album has been popping up basically since Yeezus was released. In 2013, Q-Tip said he and Rick Rubin were producing the album. A year ago, French Montana told Rolling Stone that he was supposed to be working on it. Ty Dolla $ign either worked on the iHeartMusic Rihanna track or there’s another Riri track featuring both TD$ and Paul McCartney. There’s the previously mentioned involvement of Malik Yusef. Young Thug apparently went to Kanye’s house to record a few tracks. And we found out through the nightclub incident that Theophilus London is on at least one track.
There are so many potential collaborations on this thing, but we won’t know who is on the album until the album is actually out. Because, really…
We have no idea what this album will actually sound like. The reports surrounding this album go back to late 2013, when Q-Tip said he was producing it. That’s more than a year ago, and Kanye has been previewing this album since at least September of 2014. Six months have passed since then. When Malik Yusef spoke to RS in October, he said there were 20 finished songs for the Yeezus follow-up. That’s a lot of songs, so maybe all of these collaborations are going to make the cut. And, because it’s difficult to sustain a vibe throughout 20 tracks, maybe this album will be as varied as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was? Who knows.
Kanye at least seems to want to get back into the chart-topping game. (“Of course I want to be on radio,” he said, unsurprisingly, at the iHeartRadio event.) He hasn’t had a huge hit since MBDTF, so it’s safe to assume this isn’t going to be some two-hour-long concept album. Or, whatever, maybe it will. The only thing that is safe to assume is that assumptions never fly in the world of Kanye West, man. And there isn’t even a release date for this thing, so it could show up tomorrow.